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Future 'wars over water and food if we do not act now' on climate crisis, EU parliament hears

A climate report has said the scale of recent changes to the climate system are “unprecedented” over hundreds and thousands of years.

File image of executive vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
File image of executive vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE EXECUTIVE VICE-president of the European Commission has said it is time for Europe and the world to “take responsibility for next generations” in tackling the climate crisis. 

MEPs this morning debated issues around climate change and climate disasters in Europe during the summer. 

Climate change has, and will have, wide-ranging impacts across the globe. Research from Climate Ireland shows that since 1900, there has been an increase of 0.8 degrees in the surface temperature here.

landmark climate report also said the scale of recent changes to the climate system are “unprecedented” over hundreds and thousands of years and that human influence is the primary driver of global warming.

Frans Timmermans, the executive vice-president of the European Commission, said there is too much talk about the costs of transitioning to climate-friendly policies, and not enough talk about the impacts and cost of not transitioning. 

He said this cost is “not just in economic terms”, but in the human impact of climate-related disasters seen in the wildfires and floods that impacted parts of Europe this summer.

“Our children will be waging wars over water and food if we do not act now,” he said.

We have to take responsibility for next generations.

He said the international community should “follow the European Union’s lead in working towards a neutral society by the middle of this century”. 

The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will give a State of the Union speech tomorrow outlining the EU’s priorities for the year ahead.

Fit for 55

The EU has set itself a target of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, which will require a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades. 

The bloc also aims to cut emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The EU is currently working on a revision of its climate legislation under a ‘fit for 55′ package to align current laws with the 2030 and 2050 ambitions. 

One of the MEPs speaking this morning about the ‘fit for 55′ plan, Ireland South MEP Seán Kelly, said it will be impossible to reach climate targets without decarbonisation technology.

This includes retrofitting where homes are made more energy efficient. 

Speaking to The Journal in Strasbourg, Kelly added that there should be an increased focus on the energy performance of buildings. 

“It’s a no-brainer in terms of trying to decarbonise by 2050 to really put a big effort into retrofitting buildings,” the Fine Gael politician said. 

He said it’s good to see the Irish government “responding to the pressure to build new houses”, but said there should be more emphasis on the buildings already in place. 

“Unless we undertake a major, and I mean major, restructuring retrofitting programme, we’re not going to reduce those emissions.”

The government’s recent Housing for All plan outlined intentions to retrofit insulation into half a million homes over the next decade. 

The housing plan details that local authorities will retrofit 36,500 social homes by 2030 to a B2 – one of the highest – or “cost optimal” energy rating.

2,400 of those are set to be retrofitted this year.

Speaking to The Journal in July, Dr Darren Clarke, Environmental Geographer at Dublin City University, said he expects patterns of increasing temperatures continue in the years ahead.

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“The record temperatures that we are seeing in many parts of Ireland are likely to be broken again over the next couple of decades because we’re in the midst of a climate crisis,” he said. 

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces in Ireland also recently described climate change as the biggest threat to Ireland. 

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, who has served as the leader of Ireland’s military for six years and has a PhD in environmental and ecosystem governance, believes that climate breakdown is already creating conflict and destabilisation across the globe.

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